Stapleton talks city streets, more

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City administrator Jennifer Stapleton discussed the two-way traffic conversion, among other city topics, during last week’s Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon. (Photo by MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — It's been a busy first year for Sandpoint city administrator, Jennifer Stapleton.

Stapleton, who spoke at last week's Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon, reflected on her first year in Sandpoint. January marked one year since she started in the position, and it has been about a year, she said, since she last spoke at a chamber meeting.

"For me, the difference between this year and last year is my whole family is living up here this year, so I'm excited about that," Stapleton said. "... It's been a great 18 months here in Sandpoint."

During her presentation, Stapleton updated the audience on different city projects, improvements and ideas, but the one that sparked most of the questions by those in attendance was the two-way street revision.

Over the last few weeks, Fifth Avenue, Pine Street, First Avenue and Cedar Street were converted from one-way to two-way traffic, which has garnered what Stapleton said is a "mixed reaction" from the community. 

The first question asked was in regards to the right turn only from Fifth onto Pine, yet many people were still turning left. The woman who asked was wondering if signage would be put up at the Fifth and Cedar intersection to direct people to turn toward Highway 95 at that point. Stapleton said city officials were looking at additional signage, but had not yet made any specific changes.

The next question referred to the block of Pine Street that remains one-way between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The audience member said he had heard a lot of "grumbling about the section of roadway. He said he understands the motivation by the Idaho Transportation Department to not have a traffic signal at Fifth and Pine, because it is part of Highway 2 and they want traffic to flow through without cross traffic.

"But is seems like they maybe didn't consider the amount of traffic that comes off the Long Bridge, comes through town and continues on Highway 2 to Laclede," he said.

He said the suggestion by the city for log trucks to continue on the Highway 95 bypass to the north exit in Ponderay is not going to be successful. The drivers get paid by the load, so they are not going to go out of their way to abide by the city's preferred truck route.

"One of the goals with this project is to get truck traffic out of our downtown, out of our residential areas," Stapleton said. "Pine Street, moving through downtown, is still under the control of ITD. It's something we will be continuing to have conversations with them ... that has been one of our more challenging areas."

The conversion was an ITD project up to this point, Stapleton said. The restriping on Church Street will be done through the city by the same company contracted by ITD for the other streets, and will occur this week — weather permitting.

Some of the other topics she covered during the meeting include the city's strategic planning, the Business Improvement District, fiber internet, and a possible future dog park discussed at last week's City Council meeting.

Strategic priorities are a focus of city officials as they work through budget season. First, one of the overarching goals of the city's political leadership team, she said, is to develop a framework to sustain a strong, resilient city that effectively balances economic social and environmental goals.

"It's always a challenge to find a balance between those and doing more with the limited resources that we have," Stapleton said.

Other goals include maintaining an efficient, accountable and effective city government at all times, as well as improving the effectiveness of communications between city officials and residents.

Stapleton said the city's priorities for action include developing and adopting fiscal guidelines to help assure the city's financial resilience, establish clear expectations for the use of data in decision-making and performance management at all levels, and initiate development of comprehensive master plans for major city infrastructure and services.

Effective engagement, service efficiency, citizen satisfaction and community pride.

"In order to achieve this vision and the priorities council has set out for us, we need you," Stapleton said. "We need you to be engaged."

Stapleton moved into some of frequently asked questions, starting with fiber internet. The city's administrative buildings are hooked up on the network, but she often hears questions from residents on when they will have access to the "fast internet." The fiber backbone is in, she said, and private providers, such as Intermax Networks, are taking on the task of providing fiber to businesses and community members, so it should be available this year.

On the topic of the BID, she said, the first round of listening sessions were completed last month. Stapleton said workshops will be held June 22 and 23 to discuss some of the things that came up during the listening sessions, as well as other things to consider, such as the state law surrounding the BID. The workshops are scheduled from 6-9 p.m. June 22, and 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. June 23; both will be held in the community room of the Columbia Bank building, 414 Church St.

The idea of a dog park at was discussed, she said, during Wednesday's City Council meeting — the first meeting in the city's new format, which was done in a less formal, workshop-style setting. One meeting each month will be done in this format. As far as the dog park, one question Stapleton often hears is, "will there be a dog park?" Stapleton did not have an answer to that question, but said council members will be taking up the issue of a dog park again on June 21. The proposed location by the Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park group is Lakeview Park adjacent to Memorial Field.

The first phase of the downtown revitalization project was scheduled for this month originally, but it was announced last month that the only bid received for the project was much higher than anticipated. Council members rejected the bid and the Cedar Street project, which includes wider sidewalks, storm gardens, benches, bike racks, trees and other improvements, was nixed until next summer. To get the project completed in the original time frame, the three phase project may be re-designed to two phases in 2018 and 2019.

The final FAQ Stapleton covered was parking in the downtown. The "greatest myth" surrounding downtown parking, she said, is the city gave half the Third Street lot to Kochava and the other half to Kaniksu Health.

"We do have Kochava downtown with a good number of employees, but parking is first come, first served in the city parking lot," Stapleton said.

Also, she said, Kaniksu did not choose to sign the agreement. The third time company representatives asked  for a change in the agreement, City Council members denied them.

"So they had to go with the second version which council had approved and they decided that did not work for them," she said. "... With that said, we are aware of the parking concerns downtown; we are having a lot of conversations about that."

She said city officials will continue to look at the issue and find ways of addressing it.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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